Victims of scams related to the coronavirus outbreak lost nearly €1 million in February, according to the UK’s fraud and cybercrime centre.
In a warning to the public, Action Fraud UK said fraudsters conned people out of more than £800,000 (€918,000) in the month, using the COVID-19 crisis to concoct phishing email scams.
It said since the start of February, 21 cases of fraud have been identified where coronavirus was mentioned.
Ten were reported by victims who were trying to buy facemasks from fraudulent sellers, with one victim losing more than £15,000 on a purchase of masks which was never delivered.
Others were victims of coronavirus-themed phishing emails, where people are tricked into opening malicious attachments or divulging login information.
Some fraudsters have been pretending to be from research organisations associated with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
WHO has itself warned people of malicious emails appearing to be from the organisation.
“WHO is aware of suspicious email messages attempting to take advantage of the 2019 novel coronavirus emergency,” it says on its website, warning the emails ask for information such as usernames and passwords, or include malicious links or attachments.
How to steer clear of online scams
- Don’t click on links or attachments in suspicious emails, says Action Fraud
- Don’t reveal any personal or financial details during unsolicited messages or calls
- WHO says you can verify the sender by checking the email address – an official WHO email will be sent only from an address ending in @who.int
- Don’t feel under pressure to reveal any information – cybercriminals use emergencies such as coronavirus to scare people into making rash decisions
- The WHO also advises, if you think you may have given personal information mistakenly to a scammer, change your credentials immediately